Out of the mouth of babes

Media theorist Marshall McLuhan once said, “The medium is the message,” which could not be more true in today’s modern age. The internet and social media have given voice to so many who would be otherwise unheard. Perhaps the most fascinating voices are those that have a better grasp of the new media than its predecessors — those under the age of 18. Watch this impassioned video of 16-year-old environmental activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.

Video Courtesy Earth Guardians

Youth speaking out on societal issues is not a new phenomenon, Severn Cullis-Suzuki gave a similarly fervent speech at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. But only with the recent advent of social media have their shots been heard around the world.

Perhaps driven by an innocent naiveté, or perhaps by the honest, blunt nature of youth, but the youngest generation is not afraid to speak on controversial topics and to ask the questions many adults would not. Eleven-year-old Matthew Schricker did so recently when he questioned Mike Pence’s “softening” role in Donald Trump’s campaign:

Video Courtesy MiNews

When surrounded by media mistakes and poorly worded soundbites, it is comforting to hear such candidness, wit and substance from the future leaders of America.

In Other Words

There were a lot of firsts at the 2016 Republican National Convention, but Melania Trump’s speech was not one of them. Mrs. Trump’s apparent plagiarism of First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech from the 2008 Democratic National Convention created quite a stir from the public, the media, and the Trump campaign. And the Republicans’ attempts to explain it away challenged the Party’s credibility. The question that remains is not who wrote the speech (though Mrs. Trump claimed in an NBC interview that she did, “with as little help as possible”), but who approved it?

Video Courtesy CNN

Former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski, fired in June, is calling for accountability. He says that if current Campaign Manager Paul Manafort approved the speech “he would do the right thing and resign.” Mr. Manafort and Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee Communications Chief, are primarily denying the speech as plagiarism by asserting her use of “common words and phrases,” even going so far as to draw similarities with quotes from singers John Legend and Akon and the children’s television show, My Little Pony.

But the camera doesn’t lie, nor does it blink. The fact remains that Mrs. Trump was caught using about 60 words in the same phrasing or syntax as the speech Mrs. Obama gave, suggesting that Mrs. Trump probably had more help than she admitted.

With over 30 years experience in helping clients create speeches with authenticity, we know how difficult it is to communicate universal values for those inexperienced in public speaking. That is why speech writing and plagiarism-checking in the White House are such meticulous processes. When in the public eye and without proper guidance, mistakes happen.

After two days of continual finger-pointing within the Republican party, a family friend and writer for the Trump Corporation, Meredith McIver, stepped forward and took responsibility for the mistake. This has created further problems for the campaign because only campaign employees can legally contribute goods and services. A speech was prepared by Republican speechwriters beforehand, but Mrs. Trump rejected this and sought help from Ms. McIver instead.

Our Los Angeles-based media training firm also coaches in crisis management. When a media disaster occurs, it is important for the organization to step back from the spotlight and formulate a credible, unified message. Many components to speech-giving apply: considering context, the audience and why its important to them. And perhaps referencing sources a bit more sophisticated than My Little Pony … but brownie points for originality!

Not what you say, but how you say it!

“It’s often not what you say, but how you say it.” Look for yourself. The words in this PSA were reflective and respectful, but Johnny Depp’s and actress wife, Amber Heard’s deadpan delivery was not. In it, they used the medium to show true disdain for Australians and their laws.

Video Courtesy The Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

The  “apology” video is part of a plea bargain after charges for illegally importing their Yorkshire terriers into Australia in April 2015. In it, the couple are acting more like hostages or prisoners of war  than offering a genuine apology on the issue of  biosecurity. The script was thoughtful and well-written, but overshadowed by the stiff and insincere tone of the couple.

“Australia is a wonderful island, with a treasure trove of unique plants, animals and people. It has to be protected. Australia is free of many pests and diseases that are commonplace around the world. That is why Australia has to have such strong biosecurity laws.  Australians are just as unique, both warm and direct. When you disrespect Australian law, they will tell you firmly. I am truly sorry that Pistol and Boo were not declared. Protecting Australia is important. Declare everything when you enter Australia.”

But at the Venice Film Festival last September, Mr. Depp quipped: “I killed my dogs and ate them under direct orders from some kind of, I don’t know, sweaty, big-gutted man from Australia,” presumably in reference to Australian Minister of Agriculture Barnaby Joyce. The following week on Jimmy Kimmel, he threatened an “assault” on Mr. Joyce  if the Australian government tried to jail his wife.

After threats of dog euthanasia and 10 years jail time, Ms. Heard, an up-and-coming actress with recent roles in Magic Mike XXL and The Danish Girl, was sentenced to a one-month good behavior bond and a fine of $767.

Mr. Joyce mocked the video, remarking that it should be remade with “a little gusto,” but he is happy with the viral status it has attained.

At the end of it, we’ve got a message that is going all around the world right now. It’s going off like a frog in a sock (which Wikipedia defines as being excellent) telling people that if you come into this nation and you don’t obey our laws, you’re in trouble. That’s what this is about.”

He believes, however, that Mr. Depp will “not get an Academy Award for his performance.

Rubio’s Robotic Repeats

“It’s a good thing to stay on message until it’s not” wrote Forbes’ Magazine contributor, John Baldoni in response to Marco Rubio’s 4-time robotic repetition of the phrase ” Let’s dispel this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s trying to change America.”

Photo Courtesy www.nationalmemo.com

Photo Courtesy www.nationalmemo.com

Every public speaker should get in touch with his/her core set of beliefs beforehand and organize them in three to five bullet points that can be internalized and incorporated in conversation. This way, there is a consistency of message and audiences know what you stand for. But, “speak like you mean it, not as if you simply memorized it, Mr. Baldoni continues.

Ronald Reagan was so adept as staying on message, yet delivered with warmth and sincerity that he became known as The Great Communicator. The late poet Maya Angelou wrote, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And Mr. Rubio isn’t alone in debate mistakes. History is littered with presidential candidates who made media gaffes that came to define them. For Dan Quayle, it was a brief comparison between himself and John F. Kennedy in the 1988 presidential election. For Howard Dean in the 2004 Democratic primary, it was “the scream.” For Rick Perry in the 2012 Republican primary, it was “oops.” And for Michael Dukakis, again in 1988, it was his dispassionate policy-over-compassion remark on opposing the death penalty even with the hypothetical rape and murder of his beloved wife, Kitty.

Out of context, these seem fairly benign, but each reinforced the candidate’s perceived weakness. Dean screamed just as pundits questioned his temperament for the White House, while Perry stuttered in the face of uncertainty about his intelligence and Mr. Dukakis, his coldness.

And even, Governor Christie, who so rattled Mr. Rubio into robotically repeating his prepared soundbite, is legendary for bullying tactics.

There’s an old saying in media coaching, “the camera doesn’t lie, nor does it blink!”

 

A+ for Characteristic Candor

Personalizing a presentation with candor is one of the C’s of good communication. Other C’s include: Conversational, Convincing and Compassionate which help to create a speaker’s Charisma.  As Bloomberg News reported on a recent Chicago conference for the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care, Ben Bernanke was refreshingly and characteristically candid:

“I recently tried to refinance my mortgage and was unsuccessful in doing so.

I’m not making that up.”

Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke (courtesy of LA Times)

Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke (courtesy of the LA Times)

If the two-term, former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve can’t refinance his home, who can?

In the aftermath of the 2000’s housing bubble burst, lending institutions have become extremely cautious and, according to Mr. Bernanke, much too limiting on their lending standards.

” Tactful candor and simple honesty is very refreshing in today’s world of bluffing and hype,” our CEO Anne Ready writes in her latest book from Career Press, Off the Cuff/What to Say at a Moment’s Notice. But she cautions not waiting until you arrive and step to the podium or are asked a question, to decide what you can reveal.

“Ahead of time, explore with yourself and your company, what you/they are willing to share.

If you can’t give your audience or interviewers everything, which in most cases you shouldn’t,

know what you can give them to make a story or anecdote colorful,

interesting and worth listening to or writing about.”

No matter what your experience or level of presentation skills, use Candor and the C’s of Communication to deliver your message effectively… as evidenced by Mr. Bernanke’s candid constitution.

The Anatomy of a Good Apology

It seems like the past week has been one full of guilt and regrets. Pop-star Justin Bieber and Wolf of Wall Street star Jonah Hill found themselves in two different, yet very similar sticky situations. On the one hand we have Mr. Hill, who after being followed by paparazzi all day, finally snapped and said a “disgusting and hurtful” homophobic slur as he later explained to radio host, Howard Stern. On the other hand we have Mr. Bieber who also sought the public’s forgiveness for something that he did, not recently, but five years ago! After TMZ released a video of a then 15-year-old Justin Bieber telling a racist joke to his friends.

bieber_hill

What is worth noting is that these two celebrities share a gracious and successful manner in which they handled their mistakes. As far as prepared apologies go, the anatomy of their apologies were nearly perfect. You can find in Off the Cuff/What to Say at a Moment’s Notice authored by our CEO Anne Ready for Career Press, that both apologies hit all the right notes. Mr. Hill and Mr. Bieber both acknowledged their wrongdoing and took full responsibility for their actions. “What I said in that moment was disgusting and I shouldn’t have said it,” Johan Hill stated. Both celebrities apologized briefly and sincerely, reiterated how they may have hurt others, as well as portraying how they feel about it:  “This is a heartbreaking situation for me, because from the day I was born, and publicly, I’ve been a gay rights activist,” Jonah Hill said to his fans.

One key ingredient is the promise to correct the wrong and make amends; a step that both Mr. Hill and Mr. Bieber addressed, “I was a kid then and I am a man now who knows my responsibility to the world and to not make that mistake again,” Justin Bieber stated.

Having a good PR team backing you and having appropriate media training for these types of circumstances can go a long way. We can all learn a thing or two from Jonah Hill and Justin Bieber on how to handle apologies. They took all the right steps, they made no excuses and took full responsibility for their actions.

T.M.I. (Too Much Information)

Probably every poor reader and/or contact wearer in the audience of Sunday night’s Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas felt vindicated when TV reality star and aspiring model Kendall Jenner fumbled her teleprompter introduction of Australia’s boy band, “5 Seconds of Summer.”  She said, “And now we welcome, One…” before stopping abruptly. Everyone, including 5SOS’s British rival “One Direction,” assumed that she had started to name them instead!

Realizing her gaffe, Ms. Jenner laughed it off, but then made the media mistake of self-consciously volunteering T.M.I. by saying, “You guys, I’m a terrible reader,” which didn’t help. It would have been better to just smile, laugh and correctly introduce “5 Seconds of Summer,” rather than trying to explain it all away.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 4.42.09 PM

By trying to justify her error, Ms. Jenner dug herself into a deeper hole and subsequently opened herself up to more public scrutiny and social media mockery.

Travoltifying!

More than pizza or a selfie, what deterred and distracted from the 86th annual Academy Awards was a Media Mistake heard round the world. John Travolta introduced Idina Menzel by the wrong name, Adele Dezeem!

Ms. Menzel, who played Maureen Johnson in Rent both onstage and on screen and Elphaba in Wicked, seemed unperturbed by the flub as she sang out Let It Go, from the animated film, Frozen.

But an estimated 43 million people who were watching did not let it go and have mocked Mr. Travolta relentlessly on social media. Taking on a life of its own, a new @handle was created for the faux-name: @AdeleDezeem. And an online tool was born so that others could find out how John Travolta would “travoltify” peoples’ names when introducing them.

travolta

Although Mr. Travolta accredited her “wicked” talent, he rushed his introduction and slurred her name.

Best known for his roles as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever and Danny Zuko in Grease, Mr. Travolta did not publicly apologize to Ms. Menzel for the mistake he made. Instead, he joked that she would say, as she sang, “Let it go, let it go.”

At READY FOR MEDIA, he would have learned presentation skills by acknowledging the media mistake with an apology and bridging to a soundbite that the media could take away. This media training three-step process is short, sweet and will keep you in the right light in the media.

Behaving Badly

sherman

When Richard Sherman sealed the Seattle Seahawk’s spot in Super Bowl XLVIII in his game-saving play against the San Francisco 49ers, he also sealed his spot as the sports world’s latest “classless” wonder.

His adrenaline and aggression were at an all-time high in a post game interview with …

Well, I’m the best corner in the game! When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re going to get. Don’t you ever talk about me.”

What is just as bad as being a sore loser, is being a sore winner. As Ato Boldon, four times Olympic medalist stated in his tweet, it was evident that there was no clear media training done for the opinionated and classless Rich Sherman.

 tweet boldon

Despite tweets on his arrogant stupidity, Mr. Sherman did graduate from Stanford with a degree in Communications. This may be the reason why in the passionate reaction to his game-winning play, he did not use curse words and turned to camera to make direct eye contact.

But he should have also known not to waste precious press time talking about his opponents and the other team! With Mr. Sherman’s spectacular play, he gave himself the opportunity to share his pride in being a “Seattle Seahawk,” give credit to both his own quaterback and receiver who scored the winning touchdown, etc, etc. …. In short, brand, brand, brand.

He became Twitter’s latest “trend,” not only for his commendable game, but his foolish response. And Mr. Sherman didn’t apologize, but said that he regrets the “storm afterwards” and how it was perceived in the media. He did admit that he probably should not have attacked Crabtree,

“Maybe I shouldn’t have said that.”

Although these antics garner media attention, always remember that bad press is not better than no press at all. Instead, it is important to portray yourself at your best and in Sherman’s case, win with composure.

Having to Say You’re Sorry

lululemon picture

In the past year, Lululemon has been under fire not only for the “sheerness” of its yoga pants, but also for the explanations of the brand’s founder, Chip Wilson. “Yoga pants become see-through when women buy sizes that are too small for them.”

Backlash from women all across North America registered shock that a company who promotes “quality is at the heart of everything we do” blamed customers instead of stating that there was an issue with the fabric.

What happened to  … “the customer is always right.”

In March 2013, the company was forced to pull nearly 17 percent of its popular black yoga pants from stores. The pants have since been put back on shelves, but Lululemon faced a new barrage of customer complaints, this time involving the pilling of the fabric. Mr. Wilson claimed that when his $100 pants wear out, “it’s women’s fault. It happens when their thighs rub together.”

Mr. Wilson later released a video stating his sincerest of apologies to his company …

“I’m sad for the repercussions of my actions, I’m sad for the people of Lululemon who I care so much about that have really had to face the brunt of my actions. I take responsibility for all that has occurred, and the impact it has had on you.”

He does not seem sad for the customers he insulted, instead he tells them how to react:

“For all of you who have made Lululemon what it is today, I ask you to stay in a conversation that is above the fray. I ask you to prove that the culture that you have built can’t be chipped away.”

They didn’t stay above the fray. There have been multiple class action lawsuits against Lululemon, most from customers of the brand.

And customers weren’t the only audiences offended. Shares of Lululemon stock plummeted from 11-15% over the last year. The stockholders also sued.

Mr. Wilson has since relinquished his seat as CEO of the company he founded to a hopefully more consumer-savvy executive, Laurent Potdevin, former President of shoe company, TOMS.

Moral: Every CEO needs media training!